I was just going through some old documents on my computer (trying to clean it up) and came a cross this essay. I wrote it for college English about, well, two years ago now. I don’t claim to be a great writer, but I found this kind of interesting as I was wondering if I really wrote it.
The Spirit of Ages
The picture unfolds before us; a sweet damsel in some form of distress, perhaps she has been stolen away by some vagrant, but there, a knight ready to fight to the death to save her and her honour with such a noble chivalry in his manner and speech. Throughout literature chivalry has been a great source of many stories. What is it about this character of chivalry that should draw us so? What is it? There are so many different ways to learn about knights and chivalry not only through research but throughout literature as well. We can take a look in a few well chosen books and a peak at some history of chivalry as it defined the knights who bore such an honour.
Chivalry is a word we hear quite often (at least where I live). A lot of times we hear chivalry in terms of the infamous quote, “Chivalry is dead.” (I take the stance that chivalry is not dead, it is being revived.) But what is all this chivalry? According to Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary chivalry is “[t]he system of knighthood; the privileges, characteristics or manners of knights; the practice of knight-errantry, or the heroic defense of life and honor.” (Noah Webster) Chivalry falls into one of three areas- God, country and fellow Christians and women. We often think of it in the last area, women or the art of courtly love, but there is much more to chivalry than treating women correctly. In A Code of Chivalry Brian Price gives a detailed list of the ten characteristics of true chivalry. Nine of the traits he listed are prowess, justice loyalty, defense, courage, faith, humility, largesse and nobility. The greatest guide to a knight, or any other person, trying to be chivalrous is one’s honor. (Price)
Chivalry has been the topic of many, many books. I could not begin to scratch the surface in trying to share books that are about acts of chivalry. Such books have been written almost since time began. I will, however, try to whet some appetites. Probably the most popular of chivalric tales are the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Of these knights Sir Lancelot is the one most know to us for his courtly love, one of the three areas of chivalry. His chivalry is more a love for his lady and a vow to serve and honor her to the death. One of the greatest examples of chivalry in literature has to be The Scottish Chiefs by Miss Jane Porter. The words of Sir William Wallace himself give more testament to the lady’s writing and use of chivalry than I ever could:
Rather so fall the enemies of Scotland! From this hour Wallace has neither love nor resentment but for her. Heaven has heard me to work our country’s freedom or to die. Who will follow me in so just a cause?...All is lost to me; I have now nothing to do with this world, but as I may be the instrument of good to others! The Scottish sword has now been redrawn against our foes; and, with the blessing of heaven. (Sic) I swear it shall not be sheathed till Scotland be rid of the tyranny which has slain my happiness! (Porter)
This is only the beginning of a story that drips with chivalry. This is not the quaint chivalry of tales gone past, but the deep, soul-stirring chivalry of truth, dignity and honour! This is the stuff we long for.
Chivalry seems to entrance us. Could it possibly be because in our heart of hearts we long for that true knight to one day come and fight for the weak, the poor and the helpless? Could it be that are hearts were created for such a longing? Perhaps all the stories throughout the decades were the echoes of something deeper something real. Jesus Christ is the truest fulfillment of the chivalrous knights. Is it not to Him that all the stories seem to point? Whatever we believe one must know that chivalry is not just a thing of yesteryears, only fit for stories, but a characteristic that can still be cultivated even now.